Pictures of Nothing at All | Experimenting with words and image

Kit Kelen4Australian professor and poet Christopher (Kit) Kelen has long been experimenting with words and images, looking to create a dialogue between these two forms of expression. With his exhibition “Pictures of Nothing at All,” currently on display at the Macau Museum of Art (MAM), Kit Kelen takes his audience on a journey through “the idea of abstraction.”
A book with English poems translated into Portuguese, Chinese, French, and Indonesian, as well as a set of mixed media panels, might evoke unfamiliar landscapes in our minds or even resemble some of Macau’s landscapes, but the journey is all ours.  As viewers and readers, we are encouraged to draw on a story that can be built by our own minds, with the help of the artist.
“The pictures suggest a story. You have to make your own journey here. You have to be lost to find a way. You have to take the time to do it,” Australian poet Andrew Burke and Visual Arts professor Carol Archer, who currently teaches at Lingnan University, wrote in the book’s preface.
Kit Kelen, who teaches Creative Writing and Poetry at the University of Macau, chooses to let viewers and readers unveil a story behind his creations, as this is their main purpose.  These images merely symbolise the beginning of a journey, that we then feel we can complete. “I can’t describe what the exhibition is about. It’s pictures of nothing at all. So you have to read the book,” he told us at the exhibition and book launch last month.
The pictures, he confirmed, might resemble a few elements of Macau’s landscape, but since it’s our journey, it’s really up to us to interpret them.
Kit Kelen explained that the pictures are made up of two different types of mixed media panels; there’s not only the original mixed media panels, but also text panels and detailed panels, he added.
Andrew Burke and Carol Archer recall in the book’s preface how Kit Kelen “has sharpened his pencil over the years, adding all kinds of painterly pigments, crayons, and materials, and expressed his perceptions with a multi instrumentalist’s dexterity.”  They also added that “Kit writes in the simplest of English, in everyday diction with a thoughtful cadence.” The text is “puzzling in its relation to the facing images” and that for Kit none of these image expressions “have priority over the others to which it relates – although of course there was an order of production.”
We look at his pictures and we see these different patterns, textures, and colors. It’s about dreaming and stepping into someone else’s work, to write something of our own story. It may be seen as an invitation to travel on our own, and perchance find out more about ourselves.
Although “Pictures of Nothing at All” might at first seem too different from the traditions and sensibility usually associated with Chinese paintings, Andrew Burke and Carol Archer wrote that “despite appearances, these visual works – like the poems that accompany them – bear an important affinity with traditional Chinese painting because they are, in large part, about energy itself.”
Both agreed that Kit Kelen’s visual works are all “about a flow of energy from heart, spirit or mind (or whatever the abstraction one chooses) through brush to artwork.”
As mentioned previously, Kit Kelen teaches English at the University of Macau, with a focus on Creative Writing and Poetry. He’s also a poet, an artist, an editor, a publisher, and a songwriter. A dozen books of his have been published, all of which are in English.  Prior to moving to Macau, he worked as a high school teacher in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.  In 2000, he joined UM’s English Department.
The exhibition “Pictures of Nothing at All” will be on display on the third floor of the Macau Museum of Art until October 19.

Categories Macau